Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Miami Marlins baseball team, is in hot water over words of praise that he spoke about Cuban president Fidel Castro. Team owners have suspended him for 5 days and he’s issued a profuse apology for what he said.
The controversy raises interesting issues regarding freedom of speech, socialism, and long-term policies of the U.S. national-security state toward Cuba and Castro.
Actually, contrary to what most mainstream writers are saying, the controversy doesn’t involve freedom of speech at all. Freedom of speech involves the relationship between the people and the government. The principle of freedom of speech doesn’t arise in the Ozzie Guillen controversy because neither the state of Florida nor the federal government is engaged in action to suppress what he said or to punish him for saying it.
What we have instead is a classic example of the operation of a free society.
We’re dealing here with several groups of interested people, including the owners of the baseball team, the manager of the team, and the people who attend the games.
In a free society, the team owners have the right to set any conditions of employment they want for their managers or players. If the manager or players don’t like it, they can simply decide not to play for that team or not play at all.
Thus, if the team owners say, hypothetically, that as a condition of employment with the team, the manager and the player will be prohibited from commenting publicly on political matters, there is no violation of freedom of speech. By accepting employment with the team, the employees agree to the conditions.
By the same token, the consumers are free to boycott the team’s games if they don’t like a particular policy or act of the team, the manager, or the players. In the current controversy, many Cuban Americans in Miami are outraged over Guillen’s praise of Castro and intend the boycott the games in protest. That certainly is their right. The protests have undoubtedly played an important role in causing Guillen to repent and in causing the team to punish him with a suspension.
That’s the way things are handled in a free society — people are nudged to change their behavior through peaceful action rather than forced or compelled to do so through state action.
Much more interesting, however, is the exact nature of the praise that Guillen issued regarding Castro. He suggested that he admired Castro for his ability to remain alive and in power despite countless assassination attempts against him. While Guillen didn’t mention the identity of the assassins, he undoubtedly was referring to the U.S. government, and specifically the CIA, which has attempted to assassinate Castro countless times.
Guillen’s statement reminds us that the U.S. government’s assassination program is not a new one. As Fidel Castro will attest, the CIA has been engaged in the assassination business for a long time. Or as one former U.S. president put it, the CIA has long operated “a damned Murder Inc.”
Several years ago, I traveled to Cuba to do research on the effects of Cuba’s socialist system and the U.S. embargo on the Cuban people. Ironically, to travel to Cuba to conduct my research, I had to secure official permission not just from the Cuban government but also from the U.S. government. As part of my research project, the Cuban authorities granted me permission to talk to government foundations at the University of Havana as well as to ordinary people on the streets.
Talking to ordinary people was much more interesting. I found that almost all of them were steadfastly opposed to the socialist economic system that Castro foisted upon Cuba soon after taking power. Cubans fully understand that it is the root cause of their deep poverty and know that it is why they have been left behind in the world economically.
But what I also found interesting is that the reaction of the people on the street was precisely the same as that expressed by Ozzie Guillen. They told me that they revered Fidel Castro for his courage in standing up against the United States and his success in keeping Cuba independent of U.S. control.
Not surprisingly, officials in the U.S. national security state just cannot understand that mindset. They believed that long ago the Cuban people should have ousted Fidel Castro from power and replaced him with a pro-U.S. dictator who would do the bidding of the U.S. Empire, like the dictator whom Castro ousted from power in his revolution, Fulgencio Batista.
In fact, that’s been one of aims of the 50-year-old economic embargo against Cuba — to squeeze the economic lifeblood out of the Cuban people until they violently revolt and oust Castro from power.
Yet, how often do Americans ask themselves the following questions: Under what moral or legal authority does the CIA — that is, the U.S. government — assassinate the ruler of a sovereign and independent country? Let’s face it — assassination is nothing but murder. The U.S. government has done everything it could to murder a man whose regime never attacked the United States, never invaded the United States, and never engaged in acts of terrorism against the United States.
In fact, it was the U.S. government that did all those things to Cuba and Castro. Indeed, the CIA even went so far as to enter into a formal partnership with organized crime — the Mafia — with the aim of assassinating Castro. Where’s the moral principle in that partnership? Is it “The end justifies the means”?
What was the national security states’ justification for engaging in these actions—assassination, invasion, terrorism, and embargo.
The justification was that Castro was a communist who had converted his country to socialism and who refused to kowtow to the U.S. government.
Oh? And why should a foreign leader’s philosophical beliefs, including his economic philosophy, make him a legitimate target for murder at the hands of the U.S. national security state? Why should a country’s desire to be independent of U.S. control subject its to assassination, invasion, terrorism, and embargo? Why should a country’s embrace of socialism make it a legitimate target for regime change by the U.S. national security state?
The socialism justification for such actions is even more ludicrous in that U.S. officials — and for that matter Cuban exiles in Miami — believe in socialist programs as fervently as Fidel Castro does.
When was the last time you heard any Pentagon official, CIA official, or Cuban exile in Miami calling for the repeal of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and the end of all state involvement in education (i.e., public schooling).
Now take a wild guess as to which socialist programs are at the top of Fidel Castro’s list for his most favorite socialist programs in Cuba.
You guessed right! Old-age retirement assistance, government-provided health care, and public (i.e., government) schooling are right at the top of Castro’s list of favorite socialist programs in Cuba.
The truth is that U.S. officials and Cuban exiles in Miami love Castro’s socialist programs. They might not have gone as far as Castro did in nationalizing everything but they certainly do love many of the same socialist programs that Castro has implemented in Cuba.
Oh, and guess how the Marlin’s new baseball stadium was built. No, not out of the private funds of the team. It was a gigantic socialist project, one that was built by the city with taxpayer funds for the benefit of the rich team owners. Consider it the following variation of the Marxian principle: from each taxpayer, including the poor who might not have any interest in baseball, to the rich, influential, and powerful.
Indeed, what is the U.S. embargo against Cuba if not an extreme infringement on the economic liberty of the American people — on their fundamental, natural, God-given right to spend their money any way they want anywhere they want without the permission or punishment of their government.
While Ozzie Guillen gets apologizes for what he said, wouldn’t this be a good time for the U.S. government to apologize to the Cuban people and, for that matter, to the American people for what it has done to them?